Penne alla Norma
As with most good pasta dishes, the success of this classic Sicilian recipe relies on the simple combination of good quality ingredients. It is named after Bellini’s opera, Norma, which upon it’s release was such a success that anything triumphant was at the time referred to as “una vera Norma” (a real Norma) and this little dish was felt to be worthy of the title, or so the legend goes. However the name was born, it can’t hurt to cook this with a glass of wine at hand and Callas singing Casta Diva in the background!
Recipe serves 4
- 3 large aubergines
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, washed
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
- 150g pecorino, grated fine
- 500g penne rigate
- 2 x 400g tins Italian tomato, chopped
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 2 tsp salt
- Turn oven on to 180*C and chop aubergines into medium cubes, about 3cm. In a big bowl, toss the aubs with half the olive oil (2 tbsp) and half the salt (1tsp). Place on a large baking tray and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and golden.
- Meanwhile, put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil.
- Fry the onions on a medium-low heat with the other half of the olive oil (2tbsp) until softened – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and fry for a further minute or two. Add the tinned tomato and salt and reduce for a good 20-30 minutes so you have a thick and rich sauce.
- Boil the pasta till just al dente as per packet instructions. Meanwhile add the aubergines to the sauce and keep warm on a low heat.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and quickly return to the pot with the hot tomato and aubergine sauce. Stir through and put the lid on to rest. Normally I rest pasta for no more than 5 minutes but this sauce seems to develop better with a 10-minute rest.
- Serve with fresh basil leaves and grated pecorino sprinkled over.